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Lunchtime Polling Update

Two Iowa caucus polls straggled in late on Monday morning. An InsiderAdvantage poll gives Mitt Romney a lead of less than a full percentage point (22.7 percent to 22.4 percent) over Ron Paul. Meanwhile, an American Research Group poll gives Mr. Romney a somewhat larger advantage, with a 22-17 lead over Mr. Paul. Both polls also show Rick Santorum in third place and very close to the leaders.

Neither firm’s polls have been very reliable in the past — particularly American Research Group, which in 2008 projected a massive 9-point win for Hillary Clinton on the eve of the Iowa Democratic caucuses — and so they do not receive much weight in our forecasts. However, they do help Mr. Romney at the margin. The model now projects him to receive 21.8 percent of the vote, up from 21.0 percent as of this morning, and gives him a 42 percent chance of winning the caucuses, up from 38 percent.

Both polls show some stability in Newt Gingrich’s numbers. Although he would need a minor miracle to win the caucuses, he has moved into a relatively clear fourth place in our projections and could move into the top three if one of the leaders falters.

Meanwhile, the numbers for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, whose support may have been poached by Mr. Santorum, are trending downward.

There is a good chance these are the last polls we will see in Iowa, although other pollsters like Rasmussen Reports sometimes conduct last-minute surveys. A more extended analysis of the wide-open race in Iowa can be found in this morning’s post.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.